My Picture Gallery by Adelaide Anne Procter


You write and think of me, my friend, with pity;
While you are basking in the light of Rome,
Shut up within the heart of this great city,
Too busy and too poor to leave my home.


You think my life debarred all rest or pleasure,
Chained all day to my ledger and my pen;
Too sickly even to use my little leisure
To bear me from the strife and din of men.


Well, it is true; yet, now the days are longer,
At sunset I can lay my writing down,
And slowly crawl (summer has made me stronger)
Just to the nearest outskirt of the town.


There a wide Common, blackened though and dreary
With factory smoke, spreads outward to the West;
I lie down on the parched-up grass, if weary,
Or lean against a broken wall to rest.


So might a King, turning to Art’s rich treasure,
At evening, when the cares of state were done,
Enter his royal gallery, drinking pleasure
Slowly from each great picture, one by one.


Towards the West I turn my weary spirit,
And watch my pictures: one each night is mine.
Earth and my soul, sick of day’s toil, inherit
A portion of that luminous peace divine.


There I have seen a sunset’s crimson glory,
Burn as if earth were one great Altar’s blaze;
Or, like the closing of a piteous story,
Light up the misty world with dying rays.


There I have seen the Clouds, in pomp and splendour,
Their gold and purple banners all unfurl;
There I have watched colours, more faint and tender
Than pure and delicate tints upon a pearl.

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Skies strewn with roses fading, fading slowly,
While one star trembling watched the daylight die;
Or deep in gloom a sunset, hidden wholly,
Save through gold rents torn in a violet sky.


Or parted clouds, as if asunder riven
By some great angel–and beyond a space
Of far-off tranquil light; the gates of Heaven
Will lead us grandly to as calm a place.


Or stern dark walls of cloudy mountain ranges
Hid all the wonders that we knew must be;
While, far on high, some little white clouds changes’
Revealed the glory they alone could see.


Or in wild wrath the affrighted clouds lay shattered,
Like treasures of the lost Hesperides,
All in a wealth of ruined splendour scattered,
Save one strange light on distant silver seas.


What land or time can claim the Master Painter,
Whose art could teach him half such gorgeous dyes?
Or skill so rare, but purer hues and fainter
Melt every evening in my western skies.


So there I wait, until the shade has lengthened,
And night’s blue misty curtain floated down;
Then, with my heart calmed, and my spirit strengthened,
I crawl once more back to the sultry town.


What Monarch, then, has nobler recreations
Than mine? Or where the great and classic Land
Whose wealth of Art delights the gathered nations
That owns a Picture Gallery half as grand?

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